Somfy roller-shutter garage door stopping part way down

Last year, I replaced ort up-and-over garage door with a roller-shutter version.  It wasn’t new; our neighbour converted her garage so I bought her nearly-new door but that means I didn’t have a professional installer to fall back on when it stopped working recently.

The garage door control system is a Somfy Rollixo RTS and last week, we found that the door would come part way down and then stop, as though there was an obstruction. After winding it down manually one morning, Mrs W was not happy and I promised to take a look when I got home. I couldn’t find the problem – what’s more I couldn’t troubleshoot it using the manual either.  What I did notice though was that, rather than the two red lights I’d expect to see for a safety-edge transmitter low battery indication, I had one red light on the control box, and one orange light on the safety-edge transmitter (which is fitted to the door curtain).

Somfy Rollixo RTS instruction manual has incorrect diagnostics for low battery warning on safety-edge transmitter

I found I could over-ride the cut-out by pressing and holding the remote control button, and set off to the Internet to find a replacement 3.6V Lithium AA battery. First mistake was not reading the Google results carefully enough and ordering a 2/3 AA battery from Farnell/Element 14. Now I can’t return it as I can’t find a courier who works with consumers and will carry Lithium batteries! In the meantime, I’ve bought the correct (AA) battery and, this morning, I swapped it over, after which I found the door operated as it should. That was a relief, as I feared that swapping over the battery would wipe some settings and require me to re-programme the door.

So, why blog about something as trivial as changing some batteries? Well, because the instruction manual is wrong and my experience might help someone else!

Keeping up to date with developments in the Microsoft world

One of my customers asked me today how I keep up to date with developments in the Microsoft world.

The answer is, “with great difficulty” but I do have a few resources at my disposal. Rather than create a blog post which will quickly be out of date, here’s a OneNote Notebook that has the info (and is more likely to be kept up-to-date).

I also get a fair amount of information directly from Microsoft, either as a P-TSP or through my work at risual but some of that is under NDA. Hopefully the links in the OneNote (which I will expand over time) will help…

Update on data residency options for Office 365 customers in the UK

Back in September, Microsoft started offering Azure and Office 365 services from UK datacenters.  At the time, there was no announcement for customers who had existing Office 365 tenants (hosted elsewhere in Europe) about how to move data to the UK but, earlier today, my colleague Brian Cain (@BrianCainUC) tweeted about a Microsoft article titled “moving core data to new Office 365 datacenter regions“. This isn’t a new page but it seems Microsoft has quietly updated it to include reference to a new Data Residency Option for the UK (updated 3 November 2016):

“[Microsoft] offer existing customers that have strict data residency requirements, and that are listed in the table below, an option to have their core customer data moved to the new region.”

Customers with billing address in Previous datacenter region New datacenter region Region available since Announcement
United Kingdom Europe, Middle East, Africa United Kingdom September 2016 Office 365 Blog

[some rows have been removed from the table above]

Previously the UK was covered by the statement that:

“The data residency option, and the availability to move customer data into the new region, is not a default for every new region [Microsoft] launch. As [Microsoft] expand into new regions in the future, [Microsoft will] evaluate the availability and the conditions of data moves on a region by region basis.”

I, and my colleagues at risual, have seen a lot of interest from customers who are UK-based but have Office 365 tenants that were created before 2 September 2016; however my colleague Paul Wooldridge highlighted that the option to move data is time limited.

Microsoft’s “How to request your data move” page is clear that for UK customers the request period begins on 1 December 2016 and ends on 28 February 2017 [update 7 December 2016: my colleague Gavin Morrison spotted that the page has been updated to state 12 December 2016-10 March 2017], the actual migration of the data can take up to 2 years, and that:

“[Microsoft is] unable to accept requests to be moved after the deadline in each region”

So, if you’re looking to “Brexit your data”, you have a 3 month window in which to make the request, and potentially up to a 2 year wait. Also, once moved, there is no way back – at least not without performing your own tenant-to-tenant migration.

Further reading

Microsoft’s UK datacenters: what you need to know.

When to use App-V?

A couple of times this year, I’ve had customers question whether Microsoft App-V is still relevant in this day and age. Well, the answer is “yes” – and especially since it was rolled into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (build 1607) as predicted by Tim Mangan and verified by my colleague Leo D’Arcy (@LeoDArcy1).

So, when would you use App-V? My colleague Steve Harwood (@steeveeh) coached me on this a while back, and this is what he had to say (with some edits for style but the message unchanged):

“App-V, like .MSI or .EXE is the application packaging format. This wraps all of the application files (e.g. registry keys, DLLs, files, etc.) into a format and that format then needs to be delivered down to the endpoint by a tool, e.g. SCCM, App-V infrastructure or another electronic method.

 

Of all the packaging formats App-V is an extremely versatile solution. It virtualizes the application which gives us a couple of advantages in that it allows an upgraded version of an app to co-exist with a previous version and it allows a clean uninstall (as the bubble is removed in its entirety). Additionally App-V plays really well with VDI as you can host the App-V files in a shared location and multiple differential VDIs can launch from that location which saves on costly high-spec storage space.

 

In short, SCCM is the delivery tool to push the application in whatever format it may be. App-V is a tool to wrap the application to allow it to be a layered onto the OS

 

It’s also important to note that App-V requires no infrastructure and can be fully integrated into System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) (e.g. create App-Vs then import them into SCCM application lifecycle); however, if you don’t have SCCM you can install the ‘App-V infrastructure’ which is another method that can be used to deliver App-Vs to the endpoint. Alternatively you can use PowerShell for delivery…”

Short takes: a password generator; cybercrime 101 and an HTML table generator

Some more browser tabs turned into mini-snippets of blog post…

Password generator and cybercrime advice

The Random number service (random.org) has a useful password generator (though I tend to let LastPass generate mine, this is useful when creating passwords in customer implementations).

And, whilst on the subject of security – Microsoft Researcher Shawn Loveland has written a useful introduction to understanding cybercrime.

HTML table generator

I know that HTML tables fell out of fashion when we started to use CSS but they do still have a place – for displaying tabular data on a web page – just not for controlling page layouts!

I needed to create a table for a blog post recently and I found this HTML Table Generator that did a fair chunk of the legwork for me…

Future Decoded 2016 highlights (#FutureDecoded)

Two years ago, I attended Future Decoded – Microsoft’s largest UK event, which has taken place each November for the last few years at the ExCeL centre in London. It’s a great opportunity to keep up to date with the developments in the Microsoft stack, with separate Business-focused and Technical-focused days and some really good keynote speakers as well as quality breakout sessions.

Future Decoded has particular significance for me because it’s where I “met” risual, who have been headline sponsors for the last 3 events. After the 2014 event, I decided to find out more about risual and, in May 2015 I finally joined the “risual family”. This year I was lucky enough to be on one of our five stands (one headline stand in the form of a Shoreditch pub, complete with risuAle, and one each for our solutions businesses in retail, justice, education and productivity). I had a fantastic (if very tiring) day connecting with former colleagues, customers, industry contacts and potential new customers – as we chatted about how risual could help them on their digital transformation journey.

fd13

Whilst I wasn’t able to attend a lot of the sessions, indeed I was consulting with a customer in the north-east of England on the first day, I did manage to catch the day 2 keynote and was blown away with some of the developments around machine learning and artificial intelligence (maybe more on that in another post). I also noticed the teams behind the Microsoft Business (@MSFTBusinessUK) and Microsoft Developer (@MSDevUK) Twitter handles were tweeting sketch notes, which I thought might be a useful summary of the event:

You can also catch all of the main announcements in these two Microsoft live blog posts from the event:

Short takes: what to do when Outlook won’t open HTTP(S) links; how to disable Outlook Clutter; and don’t run externally-facing mail servers in Azure!

Once again, my PC is running out of memory because of the number of open browser tabs, so I’ll convert some into a mini-blog post…

Outlook forgets how to open HTTP(S) links

I recently found that Outlook 2016 had “forgotten” what to do with HTTP(S) links – complaining that:

Something unexpected went wrong with this URL: […] Class not registered.

The fix was to reset my default browser in Windows. Even though I hadn’t changed it away from Edge, a Windows Update (I expect) had changed something and Edge needed to be reset as the default browser, after which Outlook was happy to open links to websites again.

Globally disable Outlook Clutter

I had a customer who moved to Exchange Online and then wanted to turn off the Clutter feature, because “people were complaining some of their email was being moved”.

Unfortunately, Clutter is set with a per-mailbox setting so to globally disable it you’ll need something like this:

get-mailbox | set-clutter -enable $false

That will work for existing mailboxes but what about new ones? Well, if you want to do make sure that Clutter remains “off”, then you’ll need a script to run on a regular basis and turn off Clutter for any new users that have been created – maybe using Azure Automation with Office 365?

Alternatively, you can create a transport rule to bypass Clutter.

Personally, I think this is the wrong choice – the answer isn’t to make software work the way we used to – it’s to lead the cultural change to start using new features and functionality to help us become more productive. Regardless, Clutter will soon be replaced by the Focused Inbox (as in the Outlook mobile app).

Don’t run externally-facing mail servers in Azure

I recently came across a problem when running an Exchange Hybrid server on a VM in Azure. Whilst sending mail directly outbound (i.e. not via Office 365 and hence Exchange Online Protection), consumer ISPs like Talk Talk were refusing our email.  I tried adding PTR records in DNS for the mail server but then I found the real issue – Azure adds it’s IP addresses to public block lists in order to protect against abuse.

It turns out that Microsoft’s documentation on sending e-mail from Azure compute resource to external domains is very clear:

“[…] the Azure compute IP address blocks are added to public block lists (such as the Spamhaus PBL).  There are no exceptions to this policy”

and the recommended approach is to use a mail relay – such as Exchange Online Protection or a third party service like SendGrid. Full details can be found in the Microsoft link above.

Bike wheel circumference and its effect on recorded distance

A few months back, I rode the Prudential London-Surrey Ride 100. That’s a 100-mile sportive, except that my Garmin recorded the route as 155.9km, or 96.871769 miles. Somewhere it seems I missed about 5 km/3 miles… or maybe I just cut all the corners!

Well, even though I was using GPS, I may tonight have found something that might account for a little bit of that variation – it seems my Garmin cycle computer was set to the wrong wheel circumference. Not wildly out but about 0.8%, which won’t help.

The Edge 810 software has options within a bike profile for both manual and automatic wheel size adjustment.  For my Bianchi C2C profile, it was set to automatic and had decided that my wheel circumference was 2088mm, probably when I originally paired my speed/cadence sensor as, according to the Garmin website:

“Wheel size is automatically calculated when a Garmin Speed/Cadence Bike Sensor (GSC 10) is paired to a GPS-enabled device”

With 700x23C tyres fitted, it should actually be closer to 2096mm (which seemed to be the default when I switched to a manual setting, or maybe that’s what I had originally entered before it was overridden by the software?) but I switched to 700x25C tyres about a year ago which will have a circumference of around 2105mm according to this table (and this one).

For completeness, I checked the profiles for my mountain bikes too – they both showed an automatic wheel size of 0mm (so presumably get their distance from GPS) but have now been changed to 2075 for 26×2.20″ and 2037 for 26×1.85″ (defaults seemed to be 2050).

As for the rest of the difference – well, tyre pressures are a factor – as is the weight of the rider. One school of thought says you should put some paint or water on your tyre, ride along and then measure the gaps between the dots. That assumes you ride in a straight line and that the other factors (weight, tyre pressure, etc.) remain constant between rides.

If the organisers said it’s a hundred miles, then I’ll go with that. Hopefully now I’ve amended the wheel circumference that will help a bit in future though.

Removing ads from the Amazon Kindle Fire lock screen (without root)

Yesterday, I wrote about installing the Google Play Store on my Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 (5th generation) but one point I made was that the script I used didn’t remove the Amazon lock-screen ads as it suggested it would.

It’s possible to pay £10 extra when you buy your Kindle Fire to have the ads removed from the lock screen… and some people have had success in getting theirs removed by asking Amazon Customer Services nicely. Alternatively, if you have the tech skills, I’ve found a fix, thanks to Vlasp over on the XDADevelopers forums and now my Fire is ad-free (although I have to admit the ads have previously inspired me to make the odd purchase)!

Just as when I installed the Google Play Store, I first had to unhide Developer Options (by tapping 7 times on the device serial number in Settings) and enable ADB (the Android Debug Bridge). After connecting to a PC with a USB cable and accepting the connection, I was able to use ADB to control the settings on the Kindle Fire.

Enable ADB in Developer Options (Debugging)

Allow connections from the PC to the Kindle Fire

HowToGeek has an article about installing ADB but I didn’t do that… I used the copy that came with the script I had previously used to install the Google Play Store (from @RootJunky) – simply by opening up the command prompt and changing directory to the folder that had adb.exe in it…

Then, I ran the commands that Vlasp outlines in his XDADevelopers forum post:

adb shell
pm clear com.amazon.kindle.kso
pm hide com.amazon.kindle.kso
exit
adb reboot

Commands to remove ads from Amazon Fire (via ADB)

And, once the Kindle restarted, there were no more ads*!  Just remember to turn ADB off again on the Kindle.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 lock screen with ads removed

*Sometimes the ads may return – just repeat the process and they will be banished again for a while…

Installing Google Play Store on an Amazon Kindle Fire HD

In preparation for my summer holidays this year, I bought a new tablet to replace my aging (and slow) Tesco Hudl. Again, I didn’t want to spend much money – I’ve suffered at the hands of Apple’s built-in obselescence previously, and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.

The only trouble with a Kindle is it runs FireOS – a fork of Android – rather than a “stock” Android. That means no Google Play store, which means you’re limited to the apps that are in Amazon’s store.  By and large that’s OK – I installed iPlayer, OneDrive, OneNote, Spotify, etc. but there is no YouTube and the browser is Silk, not Chrome.

I tried sideloading packages from unofficial sources, following advice from Arash Soheili (Android Cowboy).  That got me Chrome and YouTube but without the ability to log in to a Google account (so no syncing of shortcuts, no visibility of subscriptions, etc.). It seemed that installing Google Play Store and installing the apps properly needed me to root the Kindle.

Then, last night, I found a HowToGeek article that was a) easy to follow and b) linked to @RootJunky (Tom)’s script that did all the heavy lifting.  Within a few minutes and one reboot I had installed the Google Play store on my Kindle Fire HD; logged in to my Google account; and downloaded Chrome and YouTube – both working perfectly.

RootJunky's Amazon Fire Tablet Tool at work

RootJunky's Amazon Fire Tablet Tool at work

Just one point to note – Amazon must have updated their method of unlocking the device to remove ads from the lock screen as that part of the script didn’t seem to take effect on my device.

Google Play Store, Chrome and YouTube installed on Kindle Fire HD 8

With the last hurdle out of the way, this means I can recommend that my 10 year-old son, who wants to buy a tablet (and is too young for a smartphone), can buy something cheap like a Kindle rather than spending far too much money on a more fully-featured tablet in a dying market: